Monday, February 04, 2008

We've just had a marvellous week in Devon, renting this National Trust cottage with spectacular views over rolling countryside. We arrived in the dark (not difficult at this time of year) so it wasn't until the next morning that I peeked out of one set of curtains to find a robin peering in at me, and out of another to find a couple of rabbits grazing, and the valley laid out below.

The back gate led on to the South West Coast Path and, specifically, straight up onto Little Hangman and panoramic views along the coastline. We hiked Combe Martin to Ilfracombe the first day (see this link for some nice person's photos of the area) and rewarded ourselves with lunch at the excellent Quay Restaurant - highly recommend it should you be in the area, as the food was excellent, with surprisingly plentiful vegetarian options and funky decor from Damien Hirst (the kaleidoscopic butterfly wallpaper is surprisingly lovely and effective).

Every day we did a 5 mile loop which, considering I'm six and a half months pregnant and hiking up mountains causes shortness of breath because my lungs and heart are so squashed, I think is a major achievement. Losing 2kgs wasn't really part of the plan, but happened despite large slices of delicious cake daily from the Harbour Deli in Combe Martin (no website, 3 Borough Road) to round off the hiking experience! My favourite hike was looping up from Lynton via Countisbury through the densely forested Watersmeet. Then there was the Valley of the Rocks, Great Hangman...such a lovely time.

And no internet! So we did puzzles when it rained too much, and I read aloud to the G both in the car and while puzzling. We finally finished J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, which was actually quite exciting - I confess we would have carried straight on to the next book in the series if we'd had a copy with us. Instead we started Alexander McCall Smith's THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE, which has a lovely rolling tone to it. We're also dipping in and out of Robert MacFarlane's wonderful THE WILD PLACES, which was most appropriate for our trip.

For my personal reading, I devoured J.M. Coetzee's BOYHOOD, which I loved and will blog about in a post of its own as it was so good. I am struggling somewhat with Mende Nazer's SLAVE, but am persevering as perhaps it was just the wrong choice for holiday reading. Last, but not least by any means, I delighted in Alan Bennett's THE UNCOMMON READER. In it the Queen discovers reading for pleasure quite by accident when she stumbles across the Westminster travelling library parked near the kitchen rubbish bins at Buckingham Palace. It is a glorious little quick read, that makes me smile just thinking about it. An encounter between the Queen and her private secretary, Sir Kevin, who is appalled by her newfound passion in reading, is a nice sampling:
'It's important,' said Sir Kevin, 'that Your Majesty should stay focused.'
'When you say "stay focused", Sir Kevin, I suppose you mean one should keep one's eye on the ball. Well, I've had my eye on the ball for more than fifty years so I think these days one is allowed the occasional glance to the boundary.' She felt that her metaphor had probably slipped a little there, not, though, that Sir Kevin noticed.
'I can understand', he said, 'Your Majesty's need to pass the time.'
'Pass the time?' said the Queen. 'Books are not about passing the time. They're about other lives. Other worlds... (pp. 29-30)
Give it to everyone you know.



Blogger Karen said...

Your week sounds wonderful on all counts!

8:49 pm  
Anonymous Logophile said...

What a great holiday, sounds like a lovely break!

9:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Alan Bennett book should be given out to everybody, and I mean everybody, to read. I find it rather sweet and touching and also sad that Her Maj realises how much she has missed out on by not discovering books earlier. I think it is a delight from start to finish and very very funny

1:47 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Karen and logophile - just bliss, really.

elaine - I loved THE UNCOMMON READER, and may find it sneaks into Christmas stockings at the end of the year (the perfect size). Along with the recent film, THE QUEEN, I thought it did an interesting job of trying to explain her majesty (fictitious of course, but nevertheless, very good).

7:57 pm  
Blogger StuckInABook said...

Isn't The Uncommon Reader a delight?

10:50 pm  

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